As 2020 comes to a close, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging across the country. Our lives have become increasingly digital, but millions of people lack access to broadband internet at home. In households that still do not have access to broadband, students cannot engage in distance learning, patients cannot utilize telehealth programs, and a myriad of opportunities related to essential services, entertainment, work, and social activities are unavailable. 

Now more than ever Congress must take action to increase the funding available for broadband adoption to ensure that all communities have the opportunity to get online. On December 8th, 2020, Next Century Cities joined public interest allies to send a letter to U.S. House and Senate leadership urging Congress to address broadband adoption and infrastructure needs in any new relief legislation. The letter highlighted the following points:

    • Promoting affordability through a stimulus package is an important solution that will help people who are struggling with reliable broadband now. 
    • Previous House legislation has prioritized affordable broadband connections. For example, the HEROS Act included a $50 subsidy and a prohibition on internet service disconnections during the pandemic, which should be included in any new Senate legislation. 
    • Universal deployment only solves half of the problem facing America’s disconnected populations. Supporting broadband adoption efforts addresses the other half of the issue and will connect millions of people to a vital service, if prioritized. 

With no clear end to distance learning and remote work in sight, legislation must be aimed at connecting the most individuals as quickly as possible. Broadband infrastructure deployment resources can help underserved communities to upgrade networks to handle an increased demand. However, if communities cannot afford to connect, digital infrastructure is still unavailable to those in need. As Congress negotiates the next round of COVID relief packages, the emphasis should be placed on making broadband affordable for those who need it the most. 

Read the full letter here.